Dancing in the Present, Gratefully

This past week was notable in two ways. First, this past Tuesday was my 38th birthday! I’m officially in my “late 30s” as opposed to my “mid 30s” and it feels weird. But also pretty great. Despite all the shite that the last year has brought, I feel more tuned into my true self than ever before. Despite the many many challenges still ahead of us, I am excited for what the next year will bring.

The second notable aspect of this past week is that San Francisco Open happened. SF Open was the competition I was preparing for before the pandemic hit. I was supposed to debut in Pro-Am Rhythm and I was working with my new amateur partner to debut in the Am-Am circuit as well. And then there came Covid.

It struck me almost as an afterthought as I saw social media posts from the event that I was supposed to be at a year ago. Like, “Oh look, a video of SF Open, that’s this weekend? Wait. That’s this weekend? Already?!” Just another processing moment of the colossal impact that this pandemic has had on our lives.

On a happier note, my birthday happened to fall on one of my standing lesson days, so I got to dance for my birthday. What better gift could a dancer ask for? We warmed up with Waltz and then tested our memory of Foxtrot (past videos may have helped a little). It was one of those lessons that was the perfect mix of fun and challenge. There was a fast spiral turn in the beginning of the routine that always tripped me up, but I was giddy to discover that I was turning without issue now!

I may have gotten a little too giddy about my dancing on Tuesday because my knees flared up badly on Wednesday. Lucky me, my second lesson of the week was pushed to Friday so I had an extra day to rest. Friday was another great mix of fun and challenge. We went back to Waltz and played around with the choreography, taking advantage of the present circumstances where I’m able to take regular lessons but not yet ready to set specific future goals. The connection in our dancing has somehow strengthened over the pandemic, despite spending so much time apart, and I can’t help but wonder if the intention to compete without the pressure of a specific event on the horizon is creating a perfect storm for creativity in our dancing. This creativity storm can’t last forever, but I’m enjoying it while it’s here.

It’s only been a few weeks of having lessons twice a week, and that’s all it’s taken for me to feel immense gratitude for the opportunity to dive back into my dancing on a level I can’t reach on my own. Since my competitive future is still very much in the uncertain realm, I decided to focus on the present and make the most of every lesson for its own sake.

Working more consistently with Teacher again has revived my motivation to practice on my own as well. I emphasized in The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing that the work you do on your own and the work you do with your dance teacher are like two sides of the same coin. You need both with partner dancing. Which has made Life especially hard for us ballroom dancers during the pandemic, and I know some of you are still in a place where you can’t work with your teacher or partner. It’s not fair and I can only offer support and hope that you’ll be back in dancing form sooner than later.

For those of you who have gotten back to dancing, yay! And I encourage you to use the Solo Practice Guide and journals at Practice Ballroom Dance to save yourself time and effort in getting back into a structured routine of lessons and practice. Whenever I’m not sure what to practice, I always turn to the Solo Practice Guide framework.

Sometimes it feels weird that I’m dancing consistently again and that competitions are happening in states that didn’t pretend like the pandemic wasn’t real. I see fewer people wearing masks in my apartment complex, more traffic on the freeway, more cars in the parking lots of shopping centers, and I think “don’t they know we’re in the middle of a pandemic?!” But the good news is we seem to be beyond the middle. We seem to be inching toward the end! My county jumped ahead two tiers in the state’s reopening plan in a few weeks. I’m getting my second vaccine shot in 11 days. Life is looking more and more “normal,” whatever that means.

Honestly, I hesitate, no, I don’t want to burst back out into society like so many are doing or preparing to do. It’s been such an unexpected relief to have a break from social pressures and expectations in “have to” situations like going to the office or the grocery store. I’m definitely still getting my groceries delivered after the pandemic is declared officially over. I see no reason for me to go back to picking out vegetables while worrying about who’s around me and what they’re thinking (sneak peek into a socially anxious brain). It’s quite probable that the lack of other social situations has contributed to my enjoyment of my recent dance lessons. I’m not already drained by social interactions by the time I get to the studio for an evening lesson, so I’m more relaxed and able to be more present. A semi-hermit lifestyle may be the key to reaching my next level of dancing. 😉

No dance lessons for these next two weeks due to a trip. It’s another side effect of the pandemic. I’m only travelling for a week but due to the need of testing before and after, I have to set aside at least two weeks for it. The way time flies by these days, I’ll feel like I’m back in the studio in no time. Looking forward to it!


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